Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 31, 2018

Trump freezes Syria funding and mulls U.S. withdrawal, Black Lives Matter marches in Sacramento after Stephon Clark autopsy, and more


Trump freezes Syria funding and mulls U.S. withdrawal

President Trump on Friday froze $200 million in aid funding for Syria, an allocation recently announced by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The move came one day after Trump said the U.S. would end its military presence in Syria "very soon" and "let the other people take care of it now." Two unnamed senior administration officials told Reuters for a Friday report the president has made similar comments in private, indicating he wants to end American intervention in Syria now that the Islamic State controls just 5 percent of the Syrian territory it once held. Critics of the withdrawal proposal want the U.S. to stay in Syria long-term attempting to shape the outcome of the civil war.


Black Lives Matter marches in Sacramento after Stephon Clark autopsy

A group of several hundred protesters marched in downtown Sacramento late Friday night and into early Saturday morning following publication of the autopsy report on Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man who was killed by Sacramento police on March 18. Clark, 22, was in his grandmother's backyard when police officers shot him seven times in the back and once on the side. The results suggest that the officers shot Clark while he did not pose any threat. Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Sacramento chanted, "Shoot us down, we shut you down," as they walked through the streets flanked by police in riot gear. Another protest is planned for Saturday.


Trump doubles down on Amazon attack

President Trump reiterated his displeasure with internet retail giant Amazon in a pair of tweets early Saturday. "[I]t is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to Billions of Dollars. The Failing N.Y. Times reports that 'the size of the company's lobbying staff has ballooned,'" he wrote, referencing both a recent New York Times report and a 2017 Citigroup calculation based on analysis from UPS, a Post Office competitor. In a second post, Trump said Amazon should pay more taxes and stop receiving bulk shipping discounts, and that The Washington Post, owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, should register as a lobbyist organization.


Comey reportedly contradicts McCabe's story

In an internal FBI report obtained by CNN, former FBI Director James Comey reportedly contradicts former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe's public statements about his recent firing. McCabe has stated he had authority to permit other FBI agents to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter, and that Comey was aware of the interaction. Comey reportedly told Justice Department investigators he did not remember McCabe telling him about the authorization. A lack of candor was among the reasons cited by Attorney General Jeff Sessions for McCabe's dismissal.


EPA chief rents from energy lobbyists

When in Washington, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt rents a room in a townhouse co-owned by Vicki Hart, the wife of top energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart, ABC News reported Friday. Hart said he believed the rent Pruitt has paid was market rate, but if it was less, it could be considered an "improper gift" from the lobbyist to Pruitt. The EPA chief is reportedly in hot water at the White House, where officials learned of his living arrangements only via Friday's press reports on the subject. The Trump administration has yet to comment on the story.


Baton Rouge police officer fired over Alton Sterling shooting footage

Baton Rouge police officer Blane Salamoni was fired and a second officer, Howie Lake II, was suspended for three days without pay on Friday after their department released body camera footage of the 2016 death of Alton Sterling at the officers' hands. Sterling, who was black, was selling DVDs outside a convenience store when police approached him. "Don't f-----g move or I'll shoot your f-----g a--," Salamoni yells in the video. Within 90 seconds, Salamoni fatally shot Sterling, who was armed with a handgun after reports of DVD sellers being robbed, but did not threaten the police. State officials declined to prosecute the officers involved.


Syria bombing kills 2 coalition soldiers, including 1 American

The U.S. military announced Friday two coalition personnel were killed and five injured by an improvised explosive device in Syria. One of the two soldiers killed was an American, and the wounded personnel have been evacuated for further medical treatment. The attack occurred Thursday night when a roadside bomb detonated, possibly in the Syrian town of Manbij, near the Turkish border. The Pentagon said the incident is under investigation. These casualties are the first known combat-related losses for the coalition this year.


Noor Salman, wife of Pulse nightclub shooter, acquitted

A Florida jury on Friday found Noor Salman, the wife of the man who killed 49 people at an Orlando club in June of 2016, not guilty of all charges in relation to her husband's rampage. Omar Mateen opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub, after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. He died in the attack, and Salman came under federal investigation to determine whether she knew in advance of her husband's plans. She was arrested in January of 2017 and charged with aiding and abetting Mateen by providing "material support," as well as with obstructing the investigation.


Malala Yousafzai returns to her hometown in Pakistan

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Saturday returned to her hometown in Pakistan for the first time since she was shot in the head by the Taliban at the age of 12. Now 20, Yousafzai has not visited Mingora or anywhere in Pakistan since her family moved to Britain after her attack. "What I want is for people to support my purpose of education and think about the daughters of Pakistan who need an education," she said in an interview during the trip. "Don't think about me. I don't want any favor, or I don't want everyone to accept me. All I care about is that they accept education as an issue."


Final Four teams gear up in San Antonio

March Madness returns Saturday with the semifinal round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The Final Four showdowns will be No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 3 Michigan, and No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 1 Villanova. The Ramblers have been the Cinderella squad of this year's tournament, and they now face a defensively stingy Wolverines team. In the matchup between the Jayhawks and Wildcats, most experts expect Villanova to come out on top. The Ramblers and Wolverines will face off first, just after 6 p.m. ET, followed by the Jayhawks and Wildcats, with both contests on TBS.


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